Updated: June 26, 2017
Cook County Clerk David Orr’s announcement Wednesday that he plans to retire after 39 years of elected office, 26 of them as Clerk, and not run for reelection in 2018 has set things in motion, next come the quakes.
Political retirements in Chicago are like shifts deep within the Earth’s crust. Starting out as a small movement, the tectonic pressures force a series of cascading rumbles, often resulting in devastation and change on the surface, never again are things the same.
Many have had their eye on the Clerk job, a position with lots of people to hire and lots of goodwill–you don’t collect taxes or fine people, but you make sure elections are clean–it’s the kind of job you could show up for 20 hours a week and the public would never know the difference. Sounds fun, right?
Lots of Cook County politicians think so, and candidates are already lining up, working to gain crucial Democratic Party support before too many commitments are made. Cook County Recorder Karen Yarborough, an African-American from the West Suburbs with close ties to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan had already announced her candidacy even before Orr announced his retirement. It seems like Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, hoping to cash in his high name I.D. and goodwill from his 2015 mayoral campaign loss, is serious about a run. And 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore, an acolyte of Orr’s, told the Chicago Tribune that he’s considering it, too.
We’ll probably hear lots more names before July is out, since the Cook County Democratic Party plans to announce their slate by August 11.
Victories by Yarbrough, Garcia or Moore would set off even more aftershocks.
If Yarborough won, there would still be two years left in her term as Recorder. County citizens voted last November to merge the Recorder job with the Clerk, so someone would get a cushy two year paid gig to just do whatever Clerk Yarborough wants.
If Garcia won, he’d leave behind an open Commissioner spot, which his close friend, Ald. Rick Muñoz (22) has not been shy in coveting. The spot would be filled by appointment by Democratic Ward Committeemen, many friendly to Muñoz. That would leave the 22nd Ward aldermanic job open, which Mayor Rahm Emanuel would fill by appointment before the 2019 election, just a few months after the 2018 general election. But since we’d know if Garcia won during the March 2018 primary, likely a dozen of candidates (if not more) would line up for the Little Village aldermanic campaign. It would be a madhouse.
If Moore won in the Democratic primary, it would set off a mad scramble for 49th Ward Alderman, a position that has attracted at least two serious challengers against Moore for the last 12 years. Lots of people in the highly economically and racially diverse Rogers Park want that job.
Although David Orr is 72, he is only now retiring. Congressman Bobby Rush is 70. Congressman Danny Davis is 75. Toni Preckwinkle is 70. All of them have expressed their intention to run for reelection in 2018. Imagine the earthquakes when they retire.
Corrections: This article originally mis-stated David Orr’s age and has been corrected to state that County Commissioner vacancies are filled by Ward Committeemen, not the Board President.